Iranian art at The Mine

Bahareh Navabi depicts the parallels between memories and projections


In ‘Boundless Momentary’, Iranian artist Bahareh Navabi uses tracing paper as a medium to depict the parallels between memories and projections, and to explore reality and its reflections.

Bahareh Navabi considers herself to resemble tracing paper; like an osmotic frontier between her and the world. The 29-year-old artist’s solo exhibition at The Mine, her first in Dubai, will be on display until Saturday November 1 and will explore her illustration of self-reflection and exploration. ‘Boundless Momentary’ characterises the endless dynamics that come together and help transcend her mind, and is presented in a beautiful series.

Growing up in an artistic environment in Tehran, Navabi developed as an apprentice of Farideh Lashai, a master contemporary Iranian artist. At ten years old, Navabi was shadowing her mentor and gradually nurturing her artistic conventions, which were abstract paintings at the time. ‘My only medium of remembering moments would be through painting. It came naturally to me and I found it gave me a way to express things that I couldn’t articulate,’ she explains.

The young artist recalls completing her first-ever artwork sitting in her mentor’s atelier, waiting for her to accompany her for the framing. ‘Lashai looked at me and said, “I’m about to do something that you will never forget,” and then she took a paint brush and slashed a red line across my work. I’ve kept that painting to this day to remember that the purpose was to learn how to trust my inner self and gain courage.’

Since then, she has embedded that courage into her working process. Her work, although figurative at first glance, is the result of an abstract process that the artist describes as an unconscious reflection of her mind. ‘Boundless Momentary is the precise time where two moments come together, at the exact same time where they separate. The coming together and separation is boundless in what it encompasses,’ Navabi explains. The line is what is most important about the works. It is the superimposition that creates the dialogue, the reality and its reflections. Each layer adds to the rawness of each individual and how thin layers (tracing paper) add on to our perceptions of the world and ourselves.’

The artist uses polyester tracing paper as medium for her drawings, which allows the transparency of this smooth material to create plays on superimposed levels and reflections that echo the mental images of the artist – a parallel between memories and projections, from here to there.

‘The Mine’s space itself inspired the exhibition. I felt that because it did not fit into the prerequisites of conventional galleries in its very raw and industrial feel, I could better convey my work’s message. The space and the works are in sync. People around me, and the illustration of their solitude, inspire me in general. They are my subject matters as raw individuals,’ says Navabi.

Similar to the palimpsest method, the images are imprinted onto the paper like in memory, a back and forth movement of appearance and disappearance, construction and deconstruction, by adding or removing a layer.

On a daily basis, Navabi absorbs and remembers faces, shapes, creatures and objects that she encounters. What she finds most intriguing is not just the looks of these beings, but their core. The accumulations of these imageries turn into faces and make up her characters. ‘The exhibition is about me perceiving you perceiving me. When people see the works, I think they should stop for a moment and realise how a moment could be so tangible and yet very much disregarded,’ she says.

The series of works are predominately in black and white with flashes of colour. Navabi uses both sides of the tracing paper with colour on one side and black on the other. ‘Colour was inherent in my younger abstract works and I’m slowly but not persistently being drawn towards colour in my more recent artworks. I just rely on instinct. I’ve come to realise through critics of my work that the bondage in it is often related to Persian calligraphy. While in the process of creating the artwork I questioned and perhaps adhered to these interpretations.’

Her work represents characters with ambiguous flow; their bodies are similar to shapeless masses both shackled and decorated by large black arms evoking calligraphy.

They evoke what looks like an encrypted message, which Navabi and The Mine invite you to unfold in, in this extraordinary exhibition.
Boundless Momentary. Sun-Thu 10am-7pm; Sat 10am-6pm. Until November 1. The Mine, Street 8, Warehouse 38, Al Quoz (04 379 1704).

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